Instrument, mechanical or project engineers may see a multitude of temperature applications cross their desks. Their immediate reaction might be to employ a temperature control loop. But could a mechanical, self-operated temperature regulator be a better solution for the valve application?
When approaching a temperature control application, the engineer usually considers:
- The degree of accuracy needed
- Whether the application requires feedback (Are limit switches/output signals used?)
- Whether the application needs to be controlled through a DCS, PLC or other type of controller
- The budget for the application.
The answer to whether a mechanical temperature regulator might be a cost-effective and reliable solution for the application depends on those considerations.
In almost any process facility, a variety of temperature control applications can be found. As with any controlled variable, both the accuracy and criticality of those applications can vary widely. Often, non-critical temperature applications become instrumented control loops even when a self-operated or mechanical regulator could provide the desired accuracy along with a substantial cost savings.
A typical temperature control loop (Figure 1) requires:
- a temperature sensor
- wiring and conduit
- connection to a controlling device
- a control valve (and sometimes a positioner and/or I/P converter, and an air-filter regulator)
- plant air
A self-contained temperature regulator requires no power, no air supply or other expensive components to operate. Representative costs based on a 1-inch line size would be:
- Temperature transmitter: $300-1,000
- Temperature controller: $400-1,000
- Control valve and actuator: $1,500-3,000
- I/P converter: $200-350
- Air set regulator: $100-150
- Positioner: $500-2,000
- Control loop total: $3,000-7,500
- Temperature regulator: $500-2,500
Although designs may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, most temperature regulators operate on the same principle. A premeasured amount of “fill” is drawn into the thermal system filling the upper diaphragm chamber, the capillary tube and most of the bulb. As the controlled temperature increases, the fill in the sensing bulb begins to vaporize and creates pressure on the sealed system. This pressure drives the valve stem, closing direct-acting valves or opening reverse-acting valves. By using different fill fluids, many different temperature control ranges can be offered for both cooling and heating applications—temperature ranges are readily available from -20° F (-29° C) to 500° F (260° C).
Applications for which these devices might be ideal include tank farms, large heat exchangers, heat exchangers with slow temperature changes, area heating/cooling (warehouse/maintenance shops) and steam tracing.
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